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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Cooking with Quinoa for Dummies: Book Review

Cooking with Quinoa For Dummies (1118447808) cover image

You would literally have to be living under a rock to not have heard about quinoa.  In case you have been sleeping under boulders, quinoa is a seed that cooks up like a grain and is gluten-free and high in protein and fibre, making it perfect for people on a gluten-free diet, vegetarians and vegans, or anyone interested in healthy eating.  It is also kosher for Passover, which has made that holiday much more tolerable for many Jews!  It has been a staple in parts of South America for ages, but just recently gained popularity here.  I have been using it as an alternative to rice or other grain, as well as baking with quinoa flour at Passover and using quinoa flakes for baking and cooking.

A few weeks ago, I was sent Cooking with Quinoa for Dummies to review.  It was written by Cheryl Forberg, a registered dietitian in the U.S. who has worked as the nutritionist for the NBC show The Biggest Loser.  This is not much of a selling feature for me as I can't stand that type of reality show, however she is apparently also a James Beard Award-winning chef and New York Times bestselling author.  That definitely impresses me more!

Now, I personally don't use cookbooks that much, because (1) if I'm searching for how to make something specific, it is often quicker to search online, and (2) more often than not, I prefer to create my own recipes.  Nevertheless, I like to look at them now and again for inspiration.  What's nice about this book, is that it is not just a cookbook, it is also a guide for how to cook quinoa and ways to use it.

Forberg provides a lot of information about the origins of quinoa, something the sociologist in me appreciates.  She also includes a lot of information about it's nutrition and the health benefits.  In addition, there are recipe sections that include: soups, salads and appetizers, main courses, snacks and desserts.

Overall, I wasn't too impressed with the recipes.  A lot of them are fairly standard recipes into which she incorporates quinoa for no apparent reason.  For example, adding quinoa into a quesadilla filling.  Why?  If you have cheese and whole grain tortillas, you've got protein and fibre, and if you have a bean filling with a whole grain tortolla, you've got protein and fibre.  So I'm not sure why you'd want to add quinoa to that.  In other cases, the recipes are basic pastas that she swaps out regular pasta for quinoa pasta.  You can do that with any pasta recipe, I don't really need someone to show me how to do that!  A lot of the recipes also use prepared quinoa polenta, a product that I've never seen in Canada. 

Although I wasn't inspired by most of her recipes, I did learn a few new ways to use quinoa, that had never occurred to me before: using cooked quinoa as a crispy coating for meat, tofu or vegetables, and using cooked quinoa in baked goods (rather than using quinoa flour).  I value new ideas, so I'm excited to try these, but, likely will incorporate the techniques into my own recipes.

All of the recipes are gluten-free, however, only one chapter is devoted to vegetarians and vegans while there are entire chapters devoted each to seafood, poultry, and meat.  This book is ideal for someone who is not yet familiar with quinoa, and/or someone who is attempting a gluten-free diet, and is concerned about nutrition quality.  So many gluten-free commercially-made products are nutritionally void, not to mention crazy expensive.  This book can help you develop a repetoire of gluten-free, nutritious meals for you and your family.  If you are a quinoa dummy, you just may want to pick up a copy!

Disclaimer: I was sent this book for free, however, all opinions expressed on this blog are my own.

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